Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Greg Jordan

June 21, 2012

Time to roll out the hospitality for visitors on the Hatfield-McCoy Trail

It was definitely summer. I had the windows open as I headed up Route 52 — well, more up and then down again and side-to-side — and tried to reach Bramwell on time. I had an appointment with some all-terrain vehicle riders coming to explore the latest addition to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail.

Mayor Lou Stoker had called me late Monday evening to let me know that a show out of Canada called Dirt Trax TV was coming to film an episode about the new Pocahontas Trail in Mercer County. This new branch is expected to stimulate the county’s overall economy as well as the economies of Matoaka, Montcalm, Bluewell and Bramwell, so it’s attracting a lot of attention.

I arrived at the future trailhead center, the former Bluestone School outside of Bramwell, and found nobody there, so I headed into Bramwell and found Lou there along with Mike Pinkerton of the Hatfield-McCoy Recreational Authority. One of the first things he asked me was if I had ever ridden an ATV, and the answer was no. I wasn’t too keen on mechanically-disinclined me getting aboard a four-wheeler and getting myself into a mess. He pointed out the four-seat Kawasaki Teryx 4 donated by Kawasaki to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail for the purpose of taking media around and offered the chance of a ride sometime. I’ll have to take him up on it.

Interest in the Hatfield-McCoy Trail is renewed every time the system opens a new trail. Riders who have been here in the past come to ride along the new branch, and newcomers hear about the new trail and come to explore it.

Pick-up trucks hauling ATVs have become a common sight in Mercer County. When you see those off-road machines and all of the accessories that go with them, you quickly realize that ATV riding is not a cheap hobby. The people who are enthusiastic about it have the money to feed that enthusiasm. Wherever they go, they need fuel for machines, food for themselves, a place to stay or camp out, and they often need extra parts and accessories for their ATVs. At one ATV shop in Bluewell, I learned that visitors often stop in to buy a helmet or some other piece of equipment that they forgot to pack.

The fact that the producers of a television show thought that the Hatfield-McCoy Trail was interesting enough to send a crew down here speaks well of how attractive the region is to visitors.

I recently spoke to an Oregon native who is celebrating her return to America after working in Thailand by taking a bicycle tour across the country. She spoke of the beauty found in the Appalachian Mountains, and I’ve heard newcomers remark about that aspect the local residents often take for granted. I can still remember the first time I saw Pinnacle Rock, and I was amazed such a sight was so readily accessible.

Pinkerton said that a part of the region’s history, the legendary Hatfield and McCoy feud, adds to the trail’s appeal. The feud was a tragic series of events that nonetheless fascinate the public. The recent series on the History Channel has stimulated that interest. Sales of permits on the trail have increased by 12 percent.

Visitors can talk to most everyone around here about the feud. Even I have a story. My grandmother Jordan dated a Hatfield when she was in high school, and we still have the wooden candy dish he made for her in shop class. Sharing these and other stories is one way we can make ATV visitors feel welcome. We need to remember that they are not constantly on their four-wheelers. They will be looking for other things to see and do while they are here to get the most out of their trip.

One of the Dirt Trax people I spoke with, Luke Lester, remarked about the architecture you can see in Bramwell’s homes. I know we’re use to seeing the sights around here, but we need to be ready to point out things of interest when visitors arrive. Sometimes we’re like the classic New York City resident who has never gone to the Statue of Liberty or visited the Empire State Building. They’re so used to those iconic structures, they don’t see anything special about them.

Well, there are lots of special things here in Mercer County and the neighboring counties, and we need to point them out proudly. How are visitors supposed to be enthusiastic about them if we’re not enthusiastic about them?

I guess this means I’ll have to actually go on the trail sometime. Most likely I’ll let someone else do the driving — at least at first — so I won’t give the local fire departments and rescue squads some work. I’ve been to our state parks, local museums and other attractions, but I’ve never actually been on the Hatfield-McCoy Trail.

Visiting ATV riders can do a lot to boost the local economy, so we need to be good hosts and go out of our way to make sure they want to keep coming back. The Appalachian region has a reputation for hospitality, and now is the time to let the rest of the country see it.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at

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